The Florida Bar

Text of May 2014 President's Message

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President’s Video
May 2014

Hello, I’m Eugene Pettis, President of the Florida Bar. I would like to discuss some of the important work our Bar is doing.

First, I would like to thank all of the members who responded to the “call to action” to apply for JNC appointments. We had a record number of applications this year, and equally important is the diversity and inclusion among the applicants.

The Board of Governors’ JNC screening committees are now working to select names to submit to the governor. We are convinced that there are enough quality applicants who reflect the rich diversity of our state to assist the governor in fulfilling his task of appointing JNCs reflective of the racial, ethnic and gender diversity as well as geographic distribution of our population.

Everyone cannot be selected but I want to remind you that this is not a one-time undertaking, but rather a continuous journey to ensure that our courts are reflective of our communities. The Florida Bar must stay fully engaged and representative in this endeavor.

The urgency of addressing the delivery of legal services to those in need continues to accelerate. The issue is in great part caused by the collapse of Florida Bar Foundation funding from the Interest on Trust Accounts Program due to historic low interests rates. Income from IOTA went from a high of more than $70 million a few years ago to $5.5 million now.

While continuing to study long-term solutions to access to justice through Vision 2016, The Florida Bar is also looking for new ways of delivering legal services within a broad-based effort. This will involve the Bar, the Foundation, court clerks who work with pro se litigants, the business community, legislators, and others. President-elect Greg Coleman is now working with incoming Chief Justice Jorge Labarga to hold a summit to bring all of these groups together in mid-to-late summer specifically to address access to justice.

The other work of Vision 2016 in the areas of legal education, bar admissions and technology also continues and the commission meets at annual convention for the Presidential Showcase on Friday, June 27, at 2 p.m. to discuss the framework for an in-depth analysis that we hope will lead us toward some solutions to modern challenges.

The theme of this year’s Annual Convention, June 25-28 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, is “Embracing Connectivity,” which represents the importance for bar members to connect with our profession, our colleagues, our families and our clients.

The convention offers many outstanding CLE programs and other learning opportunities. In addition to the annual state of the judiciary address by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, Thursday’s judicial luncheon features veteran civil rights attorney Fred Grey. Dr. Grey’s legal career began in the midst of the civil rights movement and he represented Mrs. Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I hope you will also sign up to attend the complimentary President’s Reception on Friday night with great food and music for the entire family.

For more information on annual convention and to register, go to the Bar’s website where you can also download the free convention app to plan all of your activities.

In closing, I would also like to remind you of the upcoming opportunity you have to make a voluntary contribution to The Florida Bar Foundation to fund local and statewide Children’s Legal Services projects via your fee statement.

These projects protect the legal rights of foster children and children with special-education, mental-health and medical needs. Every dollar you contribute goes to providing legal representation and advocacy for low-income and foster children. The Foundation does not deduct any administrative expenses.

I have been humbled to serve as your president of The Florida Bar over the past year. I am more convinced than ever that we are members of the most honorable profession. I have met so many outstanding lawyers in every community I have visited. I challenge us to stay engaged, and be the architects of our future.

Thank you.

[Revised: 07-07-2014]